Mikayla Colohan, left, and Cameron Tucker during their time at BYU. (BYU Photo)

BYU women’s soccer stars Colohan, Tucker prepare for first professional seasons

Mikayla Colohan and Cameron Tucker are preparing for their next challenge after leading the BYU women’s soccer team to the national championship game in 2021: their first seasons as professional athletes.

The NWSL season begins this weekend with the third-annual Challenge Cup. Colohan joins the Orlando Pride one year after the team drafted her, with Tucker a free agent pick-up for New Jersey/New York-based Gotham FC.

For Colohan and Tucker, signing a pro contract and joining their teammates on the field this weekend is the fulfillment of a life-long dream.

“My circumstances were a little bit different, I wasn’t ever drafted. I just signed a contract but it was very surreal,” Tucker said. “It was just very validating to me and how hard I’ve worked to get to where I’m at. I’ve been dreaming about (being a professional soccer player) since I was little and it was like, ‘wow, I actually did it.'”

Cameron Tucker’s transition from college to professional soccer includes a move from Provo to New York City. (Made in Photoshop by Mike Miller)

While both players are excited to make their debuts, they understand the hard work and learning curve necessary to adjust to a new level of soccer. Off the field, they are living in new cities, away from family and friends. On the field, they have new teammates, coaches and styles of play.

“It’s been as expected, I would think there’s a lot of adjustments on and off the field,” Colohan said of the transition. “I feel like I’ve been given a lot of opportunity and kind of have all that I would ask for to be successful, and it’s just up to me to perform.”

Luckily, older, seasoned players have been willing to share their advice with the rookies. Gotham FC has 14 players who have made international appearances, including USWNT regulars Ali Krieger and Kristie Mewis. Orlando touts eight, led by Brazilian star Marta.

The impact of other players has also been felt in a historic way off the field. On Jan. 31, the Board of Governors and Players Association agreed to the first collective bargaining agreement in NWSL history. The deal allows for advances in compensation, more benefits and the introduction of free agency.

“It’s just really cool to see the sport growing and just see how many people are recognizing how cool women’s soccer is and how fun it can be. It’s been really cool to be a part of (the CBA) and I’m super thankful for everyone that’s made it like this,” Tucker said.

Gotham FC opens the Challenge Cup at the North Carolina Courage on Saturday, while the Pride hosts the Kansas City Current on Saturday as well. Colohan and Tucker will play each other on March 30 in Orlando. They both admitted it will be strange playing against each other but are excited to see each other again and watch the other’s progression throughout the season.

“I’m excited to see what Cam (Tucker) does. I think she’ll make a really big impact in this league,” Colohan said. “She’s as fast a forward and as good a finisher as anyone that I’ve ever played with. So I’m excited to see her take her talents to that next level and push herself and grow.”

“Kayla (Colohan)’s my very best friend, so I talk to her on a daily basis,” Tucker said. “Obviously I wish that we were still on the same team and that we got to experience this together, but I’m just super excited for her and she’s gonna be amazing. I’m excited to see everything she accomplishes.”

Mikayla Colohan traded Provo winters for Florida beaches. (Made in Photoshop by Mike Miller)

Beyond helping their teams win, the NWSL newcomers have personal goals for themselves. Tucker hopes to make an immediate mark and become a player that fans will be proud of. Colohan said she wants to “make an impact and be influential on and off the field.”

BYU fans may remember Colohan suffering a seemingly serious injury in the national championship game, which she played through. She said that injury still lingers but is minor and does not prevent her from playing or training.

The club management for the respective players are excited about how they will fit into their squads.

“(Tucker) fits our style perfectly and possesses the ability to affect the game with and without the ball,” Gotham FC head coach Scott Parkinson said when the club signed Tucker. “She enjoys the run and press as much as she does dribbling and scoring. We believe Cameron will add to our firepower up top and my staff and I can’t wait to get to work with her.”

“Mikayla is one of the most exciting and promising young talents in our game, so we are thrilled to welcome her to our Club and the city of Orlando,” Pride general manager Ian Fleming said after Colohan officially joined the team. “We look forward to Mikayla’s continued development and can’t wait to see her suit up as a member of the Pride.”

Tucker will wear No. 2 for Gotham FC, while Colohan’s number has yet to be announced. The Challenge Cup will be available to watch on Paramount+.

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